India, led by its ace badminton player and flagbearer PV Sindhu, was the third nation among contingents from the Asian continent joining the Parade of Nations at the opening ceremony of the 21st Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
India finished with 64 medals, including 15 medals, to end up fifth on the medals tally at the last edition of the Games in Glasgow. The Sindhu-led badminton squad, along with the wrestling and shooting teams, will carry India's hopes of a gold rush in Gold Coast.
Sindhu, the Rio Olympics silver medallist, carried the tri-colour at the head of the Indian contingent that also included her fellow badminton stars HS Pranoy and Kidambi Srikanth.
#TeamIndia walked into the #CarraraStadium led by @Pvsindhu1 #StayTuned to watch more from the #GC2018@afiindia @BAI_Media @BFI_basketball @BFI_official @OfficialCFI @TheHockeyIndia @OfficialNRAI @indiasquash @ttfitweet @WeightliftingIN @FederationWrest @ParalympicIndia pic.twitter.com/JMSA4n92Xg
— IOA - Team India (@ioaindia) April 4, 2018
Star shooter Gagan Narang, woman discuss thrower Seema Poonia and the men's and women's hockey squads were also present among the Indian contingent.
A total of 71 nations will compete in 275 events across 19 disciplines at the Games which will conclude on April 15.
The Indians ditched tradition for comfort in the ceremony, marching out in blazers and trousers rather than the conventional sarees and bandhgalas. But the festivities inside could not completely overshadow the protests by aboriginal groups, who raised slogans and blocked the Queen's Baton Relay for close to an hour at The Spit area of the city.
They protested against the brutalities committed during Britain's occupation and insisted that the country should have nothing to do with the Commonwealth, given the land and a generation that was "stolen" by the colonial masters.
The party went on nonetheless and the ceremony began with a countdown sequence that welcomed the visitors to the "oldest living culture in the world" and went on to pay tribute to Australia's heritage before the European invasion.
"It is fitting that the Commonwealth Games is known as 'The Friendly Games' as one of the world's friendliest countries has invited us into their homes for this momentous sporting event," said Prince Charles, representing the Queen at the ceremony, before declaring the Games open.
Accompanied by his wife Camilla Parker Bowles, Prince Charles walked along the parade track, cheered on by a packed stadium. The Royal couple had landed in Brisbane this morning. They were welcomed warmly as they walked with two Yugambeh Elders, Ted Williams and Patrica O'Connor. Yugambehs are an aboriginal tribe, who number a mere 10,000 in Australia but are a symbol of Australia's indigenous past.
In fact, it was all about revisiting the past as the ceremony paid an emotional homage to the Australian heritage, especially the aboriginals, the indigenous people who suffered massively after the European invasion in the country.
A skycam was launched to the soundtrack of a soaring eagle to reveal an aboriginal family in the stands. A young girl in group used a smartphone to activate a digital countdown superimposed over a sky full of stars.
The aboriginal family in the stands was Delvene Cockatoo-Collins, who designed the medals for the Games. Her niece Isabella Graham activated the countdown which took off from 65,000 years.
Most of the countdown passed in a blur and when it ended, a burst of pyrotechnics created a blue dome of light, representing planet earth at the center of space. What followed was an imaginative celebration of the past, present and future of Australia and most notably, the way of life at 'the surfers' paradise' of this magnificent city.
It went back to the time when Australia was connected to Antarctica, represented by a white whale Migaloo, which migrates an arduous 12,000km from Antarctica to North Queensland every year to mate and give birth.
One of the most touching moments of the ceremony was when childhood abuse survivor Damien Rider was revealed one of the last baton-bearers before it reached the Carrara Stadium. Rider is a celebrated campaigner against child abuse here and broke three world records while paddling 800km from Coolangatta to Bondi on his board. His 17-day effort made him a recognised face Down Under.
Share the Dream - Gold Coast had been asking its inhabitants and visitors before the Games and though that dream did not find resonance with some, it did have quite a ring among those who braved the rain to celebrate the Aussie spirit.
Meanwhile, when action begins on Thursday, India's hopes for gold on Day 1 of the competition will rest with world champion weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, while the country's high-profile shuttlers and boxers will also be watched keenly when they open their campaigns the same day.
Competing in the 48kg category, Chanu, who claimed a silver at the 2014 CWG, is being considered a sure shot medal prospect for India as her personal best of 194kg stands over 10kg more than her nearest rival in the competition.
Chanu had become only the second Indian weightlifter after Karnam Malleswari to emerge a world champion in November 2017 when she created a new world record of 194kg - 85kg snatch and 109kg clean-and-jerk - to lift gold at the World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim, USA.
(With agency inputs)